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A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition
Old 27 Oct 2009, 16:55   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Default A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

I finally got around to revising this beast. In the process, I've re-written the Biovore entry among other less-drastic modifications. Hopefully I didn't screw anything up too badly. If I've made some egregious errors in relation to 5th ed, please let me know.
To fit on this forum, I've had to break it into 4 posts (following) I tried to do this as naturally as possible.
Part 1 of 4

A Tyranid Primer
Revised for 5th edtiton 7/28/09

This guide is designed with these simple premises in mind:

1. Clear and easy to understand. Anyone who is starting a new army has enough to handle without having to decipher abbreviations or struggle to understand what a guide might be telling them. You will not find things like TLMP, PR, 2x TL Dev or other arcane abbreviations and acronyms. The only ones you will find are ones that new and veteran players should already be familiar with: the basic stats, WS, BS, S, etc. Additionally, for any of the more unusual words, there is a glossary at the end of this document to help you out.

2. This is about your army list. Yours. Not mine, not your friend Joe’s, not what somebody half way around the world thinks yours should be. We all have our favourite units, we all differ in opinions what units are useful and which are not. I’m trying to give an up-front unbiased opinion of units, configurations, and so forth. If you wish to go against the advice, PLEASE DO. There are too many factors for anyone to make a blanket statement about the individual value of a unit. By going against any advice I give, you expand the frontiers of your own experience and may even be able to make something work that I haven’t thought of or haven’t been able to make work.

3. Stop trying to make your points back. Get rid of this idea. Throw it away. It is useless. There are more than enough units out there that will rarely “make their points back”. More often than not, their impact on the game in other ways is undeniable.

4. Tournament-Level Play. Most of this advice is written with tournament-oriented play of game levels from 1500-2000 points. Different tournaments will have different structure and organization, but as Warhammer 40k has such a competitive gaming culture, many players aspire to participate in tournaments.

I hope this guide helps you through the wide range of options available to you, helps you build an army to your liking, and most importantly, helps you enjoy the Tyranid army that much more.

Designing your army
The hallmark of the Tyranid Army is versatility. Many of the units can shift their ability scores, choose a shooting or assault role, some even change where they fit under the Force Organization Chart (found on pg XX in the Tyranid Codex). The following section will go into the major army builds that most people are familiar with.

When designing your army, you need to keep an eye towards what drew you to Tyranids in the first place. Was it the idea of hordes of little monsters overrunning the entrenched defences of an Imperial Hive? Perhaps it’s the idea of gigantic monsters kicking over tanks, walls, squashing and scattering screaming guardsmen. Or maybe your friends and family think you watched Aliens twelve too many times… Whatever the reason, this is the kind of army you should think about building first. What’s the point in making an army that isn’t cool in the first place?

Finally, I think that new players should design their first list to be between 1750-2000 points. While not every game you play will be at this higher point level, and even affording that many models from the start may be difficult, a good, high point list will give you several advantages: It provides a list of units to purchase as you get extra cash. It is fairly easy to reverse-engineer lists at lower points than start with a 500 point purchase and build it from there. Reverse engineering a list like that will also tell you what order to purchase units. Ultimately this will save you money in the long run and help prevent you from collecting hundreds of points worth of models you don’t really like.

Basic Army Builds:

The Swarm
The swarm army is a giant mass of troops fielded with the idea that your opponent cannot kill enough to make a difference, before your hordes roll over his defences. Other armies are able to field swarms as well, some more or less effective at different roles. The other two most common examples are the Imperial Guard and the Ork. Both armies excel at fielding huge numbers of units for relatively cheap. The Tyranid army, however, has one of the cheapest units available for this purpose. At 5 points each, a Spinegaunt is roughly equivalent to a guardsman with a lasgun. Considering that a brood of gaunts comes in 8-32 models, you can fill out your Force Organization chart for a mere 960 points. That’s 192 little chompy monsters that want to eat your opponent’s face. To make this a functional army, you must still have some synapse, and some units that are better at taking out foes that are heavily armoured, extraordinarily tough and even tanks. Fortunately, you would still have the remainder of your available points to help you out there.

Generally speaking, this army is excellent against nearly all infantry based armies, unless someone tries to out-swarm you. How well it does against heavier foes depends greatly upon the rest of your army. It may be advisable to actually reduce your model count a little to pick up some of the other troop units (Hormagaunts or Genestealers), or upgrade the spinegaunts to a model with a more effective ranged weapon (Termagant or Devilgaunt), but that choice really depends on you. The roles they fill are fairly easily filled by other Tyranid units that would fill up your 790 points.

The greatest weakness of the Swarm is the Synapse. Once you start spending your extra points on additional units, you can find yourself very weak on synapse choices, and once your synapse fails, that’s 192 Spinegaunts that no longer have any direction. A second weakness is from a purely metagaming point of view: it will be difficult and time consuming to complete a game with so many models to move.

The Hybrid list is one that mixes the different focused styles of armies and uses them to support each other in a tactically dynamic style. Most other armies tend to field hybrid lists of one sort or another, with a healthy mix of heavy support, troops, HQ, fast attack, etc. The Tyranid Battleforce boxed set offers the start of a good hybrid army. What a hybrid list means for Tyranids is usually 3-4 mixed troop selections, a couple heavy support, and some Elite, Fast Attack and HQ units to support them. When fielding this army, the idea is that the entire army works as a single organism, each unit or group of units working towards specific goals and with specific objectives. Units cover and support each other.

This army’s greatest strengths lay in several areas. It can be less obvious to your opponent which target is the most important. Another great strength is that if it is properly designed and utilized, taking out large portions of the army will do little good as other units can step into the role that your opponent just thought he eliminated.

The Hybrid army can be difficult to play and master. It is hard to predict here what its greatest weakness would be, mainly because there are so many different ways a hybrid army could be built. That variety is both a source of power and a weak link in the army. Ultimately, the greatest problem lies with lower point lists: as you reduce the points value of the army, you have the choice of excising units entirely in an attempt to preserve unit strength in the rest of the army, or reducing total unit strength across several units in an attempt to preserve the overall synergy of the army.

The Elite list focuses on the middle range Tyranids. Nothing so inexpensive and easy to kill as a gaunt makes it into the elite list (unless it’s been upgraded a bit) and the Elite list equally avoids large monstrous creatures such as Tyrants and heavy Clarifies. You will find primarily Warriors, Raveners, Genestealers, Zoanthropes, Lictors and the like in an elite list. The versatility of the Tyranid Warrior and the power of the Genestealer make these both primary choices for the Elite list. This list has gained popularity with the release of 5th edition, primarily because of the increased utility of Deathspitters, and the value of feeder tendrils available on Genestealers and Lictors.

The best part of the Elite list is that it is quite customizable, and the powerful, individual nature of each of its components easily leads opponents into problems with appropriate target selection.

The Elite list can also be a difficult army to master, as it tends to include a greater amount of randomness into the army: Lictors and Raveners deepstriking, Deathspitters drifting, scuttling Genestealers coming in on random table edges. It also tends to make a more obvious split between the slow-moving ranged units and the fast-moving assault units. Such a split can make target selection easier for your opponents. This along with the increased random element can provide openings and opportunities for your opponent to exploit.

Nidzilla is a very popular Tyranid list based entirely around the idea of fielding up to eight extremely tough monstrous creatures and enough ancillary units to fill in against weak spots in the army. Nidzilla lists tend to focus heavily on shooting to get the much slower creatures into the fight as soon as possible, however with the Run rule, assault-oriented monstrous creatures tend to find their place in these lists more often.Support units come most often in the form of troops and Raveners, depending on the owner of the list. The greatest necessity is to make sure that you have enough troop units to claim objectives, and to survive any incoming fire. Gaunts with the purchased upgrade “Without Number” are very popular with this list, since the bulk of the army’s power is based in the monstrous creatures, and many opponents will ignore small ineffectual units such as Gaunts.

The appeal of the Nidzilla list is mostly due to its incredible staying power. With 8 monstrous creatures, the opponents would have to cut through at least 24 wounds that are toughness 6 with the majority of those being a 2+ armour save. To be certain, arming these monsters with heavy weaponry and other exceptional upgrades is also a major contributing factor to their success, but a proper Nidzilla list will have a good amount of troops and fast attack to support and defend the monstrous creatures.

The weakness of the Nidzilla list come to the front against other armies that often focus on using similar “cheesy” tactics: huge hordes of Orks , “tarpit” units that can trap monstrous creatures in assault while a strong assault unit comes over to kill the offending monstrous creature, overwhelming amounts of assault or lascannon fire, rending or power weapons, power fists, etc. can all have a devastating effect on a Nidzilla list. Another weakness in the Nidzilla list is the lower model count compared to other Tyranid armies. Like Armoured Company, should you lose a single monstrous creature, you can lose a significant portion of your army.

Oddball armies
Oddball armies are the ones that are usually built around a “theme”, or are focused on pulling off something interesting or unexpected with Tyranids. There are 4 primary oddball armies, each focusing on a special trait of the Tyranid list. Variations are abundant, and these lists meet with varying degrees of success, depending on build, terrain, opponent, mission and of course, player.

Flying Circus focuses on fielding as many wings as possible. The hardest part about it is deciding how the fast attack slots should be utilized. With only three slots, your winged choices are Gargoyles, winged Warriors and winged Rippers. If one wants a strong winged contingent that balances numbers with power, I’d recommend 2 gargoyle units and 1 unit of warriors. This gives you the balance and versatility of both the Gargoyles and the power of the Warriors. A more elite force would be to field 27 flying warriors, and at average of 40 points apiece, that’s over 1000 points, leaving 200 or so for the Flyrant, and some few points to fill in troops and other slots.

The hardest part about the Flying Circus is the lack of armour saves and the general rules that you must stay out of (behind) cover, lest you take dangerous terrain tests. This can limit your movement options if you don’t have the ability to absorb wounds. Another, more practical, issue is the issue of converting your models. Where are you going to get wings for your units? Appropriate biomorphs and weapons? Are you going to convert them to have some sort of bio-jump pack? All of these should be considered before committing to a Flying Circus.

Unholy choir focuses on fielding as many models with Psychic Scream as possible, then utilizing the modifiers to pin units or force them to fall back. The most psychic screams a Tyranid player can field is five: 2 on Tyrants and 3 on Zoanthropes. Since the Psychic Scream effects are cumulative, it becomes an extremely powerful combination to put them on the table. Combine it with things like Biovores, barbed stranglers and whatever unit you prefer to complete your objectives. That said, there are several inherent problems with Unholy Choir. At 18”, Psychic Scream is fairly short ranged and can be difficult to layer the overlapping screams on a unit while protecting them from retribution. The affected area tends to be rather slow, as the Zoanthropes and a walking Tyrant can only move 6” per turn unless they run (losing their shooting phase). Losing a Zoanthrope can mean a significant hit on the overall coverage. Finally, more than a few armies are all but immune to the effects of an Unholy Choir. Most chaos units, Vehicles, and other fearless units will laugh at the Unholy Choir, and by selecting these units for their psychic scream, you may end up limiting your anti-tank or anti-skimmer ability, or short-changing some other area of your army. This list is one that really does well at the higher points levels but struggles to have a noticeable effect at smaller points totals, since you would have to balance the number of screams against units that can take advantage of it.

Shooty Bugs from Hell describes an army where you are fielding as many ranged weapons as possible, with the basic concept that no one can stand up to the amount of biobullets that you’re sending downrange. Similar to the Swarm army, this list tends to focus on the Gaunt, and most people consider the devourer to be the optimal weapon for this purpose. The devourer is chosen because it is a superior weapon to the spinefist, putting out as many shots per point at a greater range, as well as the fleshborer since you have more shots per point spent and higer strength than the Spinefist. Other choices for the Shooty Bugs from Hell list finds shooting Warriors (popularly armed with deathspitters), shooting monstrous creatures and Zoanthropes. Which guns the big guys carry depend on your preferences, as all the big guns are effective when carried by the monstrous creatures. It should be noted that the Shooty Bugs from hell is a slower moving list than most other lists (considering that shooting at the enemy is chosen over fleet of claw and Running) and can be applied to almost any primary build. The main disadvantages to this list are your general dependence on cover and the time spent getting your units to the proper range. Savvy opponents can spend that time falling back as needed or moving out of range while heavier targets take out your units, and it should be remembered that in a straight up gunfight, the bolter will outperform the devourer almost every time, due to range and the gunner’s BS.

Genestealer Horde (also known as Vanguard Army) focuses on fielding as many Genestealers as possible, with the occasional Lictor, Broodlord, or deepstriking Spore Mine cluster to mix things up a bit. Another variant of the Swarm list, there is always some debate as to which upgrades should or should not be applied to the Genestealers. The most popular genestealer builds tend towards various combinations of these upgrades: +SV, Feeder Tendrils, Scuttlers, and more rarely, Scythe Talons. Many people will advocate that Scuttlers and Feeder Tendrils are by far the best options, but others argue that the wounds you gain from no upgrades will outweigh the overall value of purchasing upgrades. My position relates more to your own personal feelings, your pocketbook, and your primary opponents. For example, if you regularly face a large number of weapons that are AP 4 or better, you might as well pass on upgrades like +SV. If your opponents rarely field such heavy weapons and rely more on regular infantry weapons, it might be a good idea to add on the +SV. Other upgrades like +STR, Flesh Hooks, Implant attack, and so forth are all a matter of debate as well. I personally try to avoid fielding broods where the individual model cost exceeds 20 points. The problem with the Genestealer Horde relates primarily to skimmers and fast-moving units: a Genestealer horde would generally have trouble with a Necron army that fields mostly Destroyers, or an Eldar army that fields mostly jetbikes. It’s difficult to catch them and the amount of fire they can put out is staggering.
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Tyranids 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Necron 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Tau 5th ed. W/L/D 2/2/3
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 17:00   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primier - revised for 5th edition

Part 2 of 4

Unit by unit review


In this review, I refer to the Tyrant as the basic ground-based walking Hive Tyrant. This configuration is generally a less-popular HQ choice, except among the newest of Tyranid collectors. Reasons most often cited are the comparatively slow movement speed and limited attack opportunities. Running mitigates some of these factors, but it will expose the Tyrant to greater risk. These constraints result in players usually relegating the Tyrant to a shooting/synapse role for the slower units in the army. This is not a bad choice, as it provides a solid Synaptic core to a shooting-based army (such as Shooty Bugs from Hell). Many players recommend taking at least one or two Tyrant guard, as his slower speed makes him much more vulnerable to manoeuvrable enemy units. Going with this configuration allows up to 10 wounds at T 6 with a SV of 2+ or 3+. As your core Synapse unit, it doesn’t get much better than that. Furthermore, as a central Synapse node for Shooty Bugs from Hell, the Tyrant can afford to use the heavier weapons of the Venom Cannon and/or Barbed Strangler, as the smaller broods should have light arms well covered.

The Flyrant is any Tyrant with the Winged biomorph. While taking wings means that the Flyrant can’t take Tyrant Guard, the added mobility can be a huge boon. Most Tyranid players will eventually convert a Flyrant at some point, due to the power and utility of an extremely durable, highly mobile synapse node. There are two basic common builds for the Flyrant, the Scythe Flyrant for a primary assault role, and the Devil Flyrant for a close fire-support role. Most people scoff at the idea of arming a Flyrant with Venom Cannon and Barbed Strangler, as the greater mobility precludes the need for greater range. However this is not to be entirely discounted. The Tyrant in all forms has the best BS of all Tyranids, and dropping a large Str 5 blast template or 3 Str 8 Venom Cannon shots where they aren’t expected can be very effective.

Tyrant guard
Tyrant Guard are the toughest retinue in the game. While they don’t offer much in the way of strong assault power compared to things like Genestealers, you really can’t beat the sheer resilience they offer the walking tyrant. The guard come in 2 varieties: with lash whips or with scythe talons. With lash whips, you are expecting your guard to receive charges from dedicated assault troops and weather the incoming attacks, using the lash whips to reduce the effectiveness of the attack. With scythe talons, you expect to wade into the fight and use them as a solid heavy assault core, possibly to boost the overall power of lesser creatures such as gaunts. The choice between the two depends greatly on how you expect to use the Tyrant and retinue, and whether you feel more comfortable reducing opponent’s abilities or boosting your own.

The Broodlord is probably the nastiest single model in the Tyranid list that has a dedicated pure-assault role. He has several things that work for and against him. On the upside he has a stunning unit profile. He starts at 5 Str-5, WS-6, I-6, rending, power weapon attacks on the charge, before you add biomorphs. He gives infiltrate to his brood, and provides a forward synapse node for units like Hormagaunts and Raveners to aim for. Going against him is the fact that everyone knows he and his Genestealer unit are psychotically dangerous and the minor issue of him limiting the speed of his unit by not having fleet of foot. Opponents gun for the unit early on, and bad deployment or luck can see this unit brought low very early in the game. Still, an often forgotten rule about independent characters is that if he is killed before the rest of his retinue, they regain the use of their Fleet of Claw rule. With 5th edition, a popular choice is to deploy him off the table and have him come in during later turns when he can possibly decimate some back field units. This has the added bonus of being immune to early incoming fire, but carries with it the risk of the unit deploying on the wrong side of the table.


Warriors are by far the most versatile unit in the Tyranid army. They can fill HQ, Elite and Fast Attack slots. They can be fielded as a minimum harassment level units of 3 models, or as a points-heavy 9 model (18 wound) monster unit. They can function in a variety of roles such as back field synapse, mid field fire support, primary assault, 2nd wave assault, flanking units, and much, much more. The superb versatility is both their greatest strength and most common weakness, mainly because the uninitiated player will often mix the Warrior’s role by adding a wide variety of biomorphs. By overloading them like that, they soak up too many available points, reducing your overall model count, and making them a big, juicy target for your opponents. This is made all the more juicy by their relative fragility and the fact that they are a Synapse creature. The best advice available for Warriors is to focus their role in your army: If they’re intended as assault units, don’t give them shooting weapons or biomorphs, and vise versa.

Lictors are much more than just a unit of expensive assault warriors that can jump out and surprise your opponent. They are often maligned for being too expensive for their very fragile T-4 SV-5+ statline. For the cost of a single Lictor you would be able to purchase 2 Raveners with a comparable statline and more than double its base attacks, or 4 Genestealers who get a better save and don’t have to deal with Instinctive Behaviour, either. All that aside, the Lictor adds a great deal of unquantifiable power to the army. Proper use of the Lictor’s ability to strike behind enemy lines, to take down even the heaviest tanks and weather a stunning amount of fire, and even the oft-forgotten feeder tendril bonus can turn the tide of a battle. The Lictor is practically essential to lists with a large number of scuttlers. It is necessary for a player to understand what a Lictor (or pair or even trio) can successfully take on, where they would be most useful and what encounters would waste them. This mostly comes with experience, but there are a few rules I can boil it down to:

1. Do not attack full strength squads alone. Make sure that you are supporting a larger assault or attack small, isolated units.

2. Do not attack anything with powerfists and avoid power weapons. Even if the Lictor is in synapse range, power weapons and rending weapons can make short work of a Lictor.

3. Do not attack HQ units with lone Lictors. Just don’t do it. The Lictor is not designed to be able to put 2-4 wounds on an opposing model in a single round. The caveat here is that attacking a T3 character may actually be worth it. This depends mostly on what the player feels is appropriate and the general disposition of the opponent and the game.

4. Do not attack vehicles that sport close combat weapons. The statistical probability to successfully kill such a vehicle before it attacks is generally abysmal.

While it may sound like a very limiting list of directives, there are still ample opportunities for the Lictor to shine on the battlefield. Above all, be vigilant for openings that your opponent will inevitably leave you.


Hormagaunts have lost popularity with the release of 5th edition, despite the quality assault power they offer for a relatively inexpensive cost. The likely reason for this is mainly the brutal rules that surround assault, and relative fragility of the unit. The Hormagaunt is one of those units that come in a huge variety of configurations, entirely based around which biomorphs are taken. Some insist that the best build is naked or non-upgraded Hormagaunts. Others swear by adding on as many biomorphs as they can justify. The final decision is, of course, up to you. I would suggest looking at your overall army build before firmly deciding which configuration to use, but a general guide is this: if you’re fielding few Hormagaunts, then upgrades are likely a good investment. If you’re fielding huge numbers of them, multiple unit upgrades are less necessary.

Gaunts are by far the most common unit seen in Tyranid army lists. This is mainly because of the huge advantage the Without Number upgrade provides the Tyranid player. Gaunts come in 3 basic varieties, Spinegaunts, Termagants, and Devilgaunts. While each serves a different basic role in the Tyranid army, all of them offer ranged weapons and minor assault ability. The strength of all Gaunts is the cost in relation to the volume of fire they put out, but their greatest weaknesses involve Synapse coverage, their low Toughness and poor armor save scores. Still with the other advantages Gaunts provide the Tyranid player, most players swear by them. They are often used as a front line screen for other units, providing the first row of a 4+ cover save to an army, or other units. Additionally, Gaunts can take Without Number, and if you’re a gambler, they too can have Scuttlers.

Genestealers are arguably the most powerful troop unit in the game, and possibly the most dangerous infantry unit as well. I 6 WS 6 coupled with rending, Feeder Tendrils and the ability to field up to 71 Genestealers is hard to beat. Add in fleet and 2 base attacks and the Genestealer is well on its way to earning an excellent reputation as an extremely powerful unit. Still, with all this going for it, the Genestealer has several things that recommend against it, first and foremost is the high cost. 16 points base and additional biomorphs can add up quickly. Many players consider the Scuttlers upgrade to be mandatory, while others will point out that the high manoeuvrability precludes the need for it. Others insist that Feeder Tendrils is a necessity, and some really like +SV and Scything Talons. Whichever you choose to go with, base your decision on your play style, available terrain in your local venue, and your opponents. Keep in mind that Genestealer rending can take out any unit regardless of toughness or armour saves, though it does become less useful against the heaviest armored units: Land Raiders require the +Str upgrade to glance and Genestealers are essentially useless against Monoliths.

Rippers are an interesting unit that many people overlook or even disparage. While Rippers do have several drawbacks, there are some undeniable benefits to using them. Rippers are cheap, cheaper per wound then even Spinegaunts. At 3.3 points per wound, you can easily fit a lot of wounds into your army. Rippers can be a force of nature when fielded en masse. Fielding just 5 bases means 20 attacks going out when they charge. Add spinefists to them and the 5 Ripper bases suddenly are putting out a stunning 35 attacks on the round they charge for a mere 60 points. Of course, much like the Lictor, their specialized roles and unique vulnerabilities make it important to understand what Rippers are and are not capable of. They are extremely vulnerable to multiple high-strength attacks such as powerfists, or powerful template weapons. Ordnance will devastate Ripper formations. Still, Rippers are easily and naturally used in a variety of roles: screening Carnifexi from assault, providing ranged cover to other infantry behind them, bogging down dedicated assault troops or gun lines, even inundating light infantry with a focused Ripper assault.

Fast Attack

I see Raveners as a fairly successful cross between Genestealer and Hormagaunt. The superb manoeuvrability and fast charge of the Hormagaunt coupled with the available rending power of the Genestealer. Raveners are now relegated to the sole purpose of Assault. Raveners are unique in the Tyranid army in that they are the only rending unit that can actually keep up with Hormagaunts, able to assault on the same round, allowing you to build synergy between the units.Ravener deployment seems to be another major point of contention. Some players insist on deepstriking with them whenever possible, focusing on the ability to put them where they are needed to turn the tide of battle. Others swear that deepstriking is entirely a waste as it delays their assault, and risks putting them in a position vulnerable to incoming fire and other dangers. Wise Ravener usage requires you to study the table and the mission beforehand to determine how to best use them.

Gargoyles are yet another little used unit, but I feel that this is mainly due to the poor quality and high cost of the models. Gargoyles offer excellent tactical opportunities to any army, combining the terrific speed of gaunts with wings with up to 4 attacks on the round they assault. Gargoyles are a mainstay of the Flying Circus army, but can also be used as a screen and escort unit for a Flyrant or squad of warriors. Gargoyles are well suited to take down light skimmers as bioplasma hits all targets on 4+ regardless of all other factors. The weakness is obviously their light armour and low toughness. Gargoyles are easily shot to bits by nearly any shooting unit.

Heavy Support

The Carnifex, like the Warrior, is extremely customizable. You are able to tool the Carnifex out with a myriad of options, ranging from a surprisingly low point value of a little more than 100 points, all the way up to an extremely points-heavy Godfex. Carnifex design is an important cornerstone of your army, considering how many different roles it can fill. Some people prefer the deadly terror of the Devilfex. Others insist on the Sniperfex or the Screamer-Killer. Carnifex selection depends very much on the rest of your army and the points value you and your friends choose to play at. The best advice I can offer on choosing which build to use is for you to determine first your army style, then figure out what is most needed in your army list. If you’re lacking tank busting power in a swarm of Gaunts, a Sniperfex or Boomfex is likely a good choice. If you’re lacking troop killing capacity or a powerful 2nd wave assault, you could choose a Devilfex or Screamer-Killer respectively. If you’re halfway competent at modifying and converting your models, it’s strongly recommended that you insert magnets in all of your Carnifex options, allowing you to quickly and easily switch between loadouts without having to buy 12 different Carnifexes. A Godfex has some special uses and while most players disparage the unit, I’ve included a short article on how to get the most out of one.

Biovores are often hotly debated as to their utility and the specifics of their rules. However, they are an excellent choice when you know what opponent you’re facing and can prepare an armylist to face them. If you know you’re facing a GEq army, you can choose the frag spore mine. Facing off against MEq or multiple light and medium vehicles? Acid is a good choice. Looking at open topped vehicles or high T values? Toxin mines are an excellent choice. The biggest problem with Biovores is all the confusion around them and their rules. In 5th edition, Spore mines that are placed on the table (that is, ones that miss their intended target and do not explode immediately) can count as a kill point. There is some debate whether they can contest objectives and run as well. If you intend on using any of these abilities, I strongly recommend that you discuss it with your opponent in advance.

Zoanthropes are usually a great addition to any Tyranid army. Their 2+ SV makes them very durable, and the powers they can wield make then extremely useful. As always, the invulnerable save of their Warp Field should never be depended on to protect them from Lascannons and other high AP weapons. Still, they can offer 3 additional synaptic nodes for swarms, or additional MEq busting Warp Blast shots. Zoanthropes with Psychic Scream are of course, the key component in the Unholy Choir build. Less popular is Catalyst, but this can function extremely well in assault based armies, reducing your dependence on Flesh hooks.
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Tyranids 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Necron 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Tau 5th ed. W/L/D 2/2/3
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 17:02   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primier - revised for 5th edition

part 3 of 4

This glossary contains terms that I use regularly as well as a few that I generally dislike using. This is done for completeness.

: one of the myriad terms used to describe an elite 114 point or less Carnifex that is only allowed in games that are 1500 points or more.

: "Beardy" describes someone who is using odd combinations of rules or units to gain an advantage that is perfectly legal and within the rules but rarely used or arguably not what was originally intended when the rules were written. See Cheesy and Beardy vs. Cheesy: A discussion to open your eyes.

Boomfex: A Carnifex with a Barbed Strangler. It can be coupled with rending claws to keep it in the Elite slot, or Scythe talons for a multi-role unit, or Twin Linked Deathspitters to put out two shots a round.

Cheesy: A "Cheesy" army or unit describes something that is considered "too powerful" for its points value. It may be extraordinarily tough or deadly compared to other units or armies of equal value. See Beardy and Beardy vs. Cheesy: A discussion to open your eyes.

Dakka~: Dakka is used by some people to indicate devourer-armed units, instead of Devil~. In this primer, I use Devil, as it keeps the naming convention universal (I've never seen anyone call it a dakkagaunt), and we're not Ork players.

Devil~: Devil~ is used by some people to indicate devourer-armed units, instead of Dakka~.

Devilfex: A Carnifex with two Twin-linked devourers. It puts out 8 shots per round that re-roll both to-hit and to-damage.

Devilgaunt: A Gaunt with a devourer. Typically +Str, and costing 10 points

Devil Tyrant: A Tyrant with two twin linked devourers. It puts out 12 shots per round that re-roll both to-hit and to-damage.

Flyrant: A Tyrant with wings.

GEq: Guard Equivalent. This term generally refers to models that are Str 3 T 3 SV 5+. This covers Imperial Guard, Eldar, Dark Eldar, and in some cases depending on the author, even Tau.

Godfex: A Carnifex that generally costs more than 250 points. Typically armed with melee weapons (AKA Assault Godfex)

Hypergaunt: A Hormagaunt with +I, +WS upgrades

MEq: Marine Equivalent. This term generally refers to models that are Str 4 T 4 SV 3+. This covers all Space Marine armies (chaos and loyalist) Daemonhunters and in some cases (depending on the author), even Necron and Sisters of Battle.

Sniperfex: A Carnifex armed with a Barbed Strangler and Venom Cannon.

Spinegaunt: A Gaunt armed with spinefists. Usually assumed to have no other upgrades and costing 5 points per model.

Termagant: A Gaunt with a fleshborer.

Venomgaunt: A Hormagaunt with +Str and +I upgrades.

+BS: Ballistic Skill upgrade (Enhanced Senses)

+WS: Weapon Skill upgrade (Adrenal Glands)

+Str: Strength upgrade (Toxin Sacs)

+T: Toughness upgrade (Bonded Exoskeleton)

+W: Wound upgrade (Reinforced Chitin)

+I: Initiative upgrade (Adrenal Glands)

+SV: Armour save upgrade (Extended Carapace)

The Articles section is where you will find more of my opinions, and while I am trying to impart wisdom, insight and knowledge. More so here than the above PrimerI can't help but let some of my bias slip through. Enjoy!

Beardy vs. Cheesy: A discussion to open your eyes
I’ve long recognized that Beardy and Cheesy are almost entirely subjective labels, but let’s define them to give the reader a point of reference:

Beardy is when someone uses the rules to provide them with an in-game advantage. Beardy is often a clever or little known combination of rules that is surprising to your opponent. Examples can be getting your opponent to take a huge number of saves on multiple assaults, manipulating which models are placed where to create a more advantageous situation, or even setting yourself up to lose your Broodlord in the first round of shooting so his Genestealers may suddenly gain scuttle

Beardy isn’t “bad” in and of itself, and in fact can actually enhance your game. However, some opponents will often feel cheated or that your army list is “broken”, and often leaves them with the impression that you are out only for the win, with little care as to making the game fun. Since this is a game that we’re playing to have fun, then excessive “Beardy” behaviour will reflect badly on you and may even result in fewer and fewer friendly games.

Cheesy is a result of when someone decides that your legal army build or rule usage is something unfair. For example, I regularly spend 200 points on a single monstrous creature which can move 12", fire 12 shots at BS 4 Str 5 that reroll hit and wound, then assault 6" and do 4 more MC hits.

• The manoeuvrability allows me to generally avoid any unit that would destroy it.

• The high rate of fire ensures that any unit I pick out will wither under its guns.

• The MC attacks ensure that I any models left standing after the shooting is done, won't be left.

• The MC's high T, high SV and 4 wounds ensure that it's going to be on the table for a while, even if he can catch it in the first place.

In my mind, the unit is a valuable asset and worth every point I put into it.

In my opponent's mind, it's a nigh-unkillable monster that has everything going for it: freedom of movement, impossible to kill, death-dealing on a stick, etc.

If I run this monster into a couple of IG squads that have no power weapons, then I will slaughter them all day long and he'll probably call that monster cheesy, because he can't touch it.

On the other hand...

If this monster is ambushed by a raft of assault terminators (remember: 5 guys, 2 power weapon attacks each, a thunder hammer that makes me hit on I 1 next round, lightning claws that allow rerolls to wound, powerfists, what-have-you) my monster will collapse like wet paper, and might kill 1 or 2. That opponent certainly won’t call the very same model "cheesy" because he has a response to it.

Ultimately, I believe that the term “Cheesy” is a cop-out. It is a term that says "that unit is too powerful and I have nothing that can, or ever could stop it. I give up. I won’t even try." Remember that if you don’t have the ability to touch your opponent’s forces, it’s not because he’s doing something wrong, and the fault is almost certainly in your own build.

A Word on Theme
Theme is a basic concept which your army is based around. In most other armies such as Space Marines, theme would mean what Chapter or portion of a Chapter your army represents. It’s there to give flavour and help provide back-story for the army you field. It draws from existing fluff and can limit army choices or even wargear or upgrade selections. Taken to the extreme, theme can give you a reason to do special conversions or use different rules such as using a Necron list to represent an Adeptus Mechanicus army.

With Tyranids, theme is often interpreted as build and strategy, such as running Shooty Bugs From Hell or using assault-only units or making sure everything has rending claws. That’s all well and good, but in my opinion, I believe Tyranid themes should reflect something from the fluff and it should be obvious and visible when someone looks at your army. An example might be to style your army after the Genestealers of Ymgarl, where everything has feeder tendrils, and no Extended carapace. You could model feeder tendrils on to Hormagaunts and use that to represent a +WS biomorph. Another theme might be a Vanguard force, in which case you might limit your army selections to Genestealers, Gargoyles, Lictors and Sporemines.

Theme doesn’t have to be restricting either. Your theme could be to represent a city invasion force, and you could model all of your bases with ruined city works, statues, etc. Theme is only limited by your imagination, modeling skill, and storytelling ability.

Creator of:
Tyranids 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Necron 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Tau 5th ed. W/L/D 2/2/3
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 17:03   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primier - revised for 5th edition

Part 4 of 4

The Heavy Assault Carnifex.
(aka Godfex)

Such a fine piece of bioengineering. Observe the sublime lines of its ultimate killing form. Crushing Claws, Scythe talons, Tusks, extra stat bonuses. It's as if the Hive Mind heard our cry for more heavy assaulty killing power and decided to let Christmas come early.

BEHOLD him in all his GLORY!

For a mere 227 points you can equip him with all of these upgrades!

Adrenal gland +I
Adrenal gland +WS
Toxin sacs +Str
Bonded Exoskeleton +T
Extended Carapace +SV
Reinforced Chitin +W
Spine Banks: Str 6 spinefists and frag grenades
Bioplasma: Str 10 shot at init 4 that hits on 4+
Tail Weapon: Scythe +d3 attacks at 1/2 strength if 4+ models are in base contact.
Tusked +2 Att on charge
Crushing Claws 1d6 attacks every round (replaces base attack)
Scythe Talons +1 Att
(for a mere 30 points more, you can take regen too)

So on the charge, you're looking at: 2 spinebank shots, 1 bioplasma, and 1d6+3+1d3 attacks.

Let’s just assume averages: you're going to get 7.5 attacks on the charge and 6.5 attacks on subsequent turns. To be certain, you can't really count on the bioplasma or spinebank attacks to really kill anything, but hey, additional attacks are always good. Still, your attacks are at WS 4 (not bad) and Str 10 (great!). So IF you hit, you'll pound it into the ground. Figure about 4 dead marines on the charge and about 4 dead marines on subsequent rounds.

Only 3-4 dead/assault?? ONLY?? Well, adding Toxic Miasma will let you hit marines on a 3+ and that makes it 3.6 dead marines (that’s 3 dead and about 66% chance to kill a 4th) on the charge and 4.3 on subsequent rounds.

Now the question remains, where does this creature that is so touted as like unto a god REALLY excel?

Let us first consider deployment and movement:

Be bold. Place him on your front line, near the centre of the table. Ensure that he has cover he can march through as much as possible. He is now 12" in. Since he has no ranged weapons, he can Run on his first turn, giving him another D6 movement By turn 2, it is possible he can reach the opponent's main deployment line. It's more reliable to assume he reaches assault by turn 3-4 unless he encounters something... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Here I am, giving advice without really breaking it down.

~Deployment: It is more important to place him on the front line of your deployment zone than to allow him to be pushed back by a rule such as 'No unit be deployed closer than 24"'. You can always move at an angle towards the enemy. Being pushed off the front line is just that much farther he must travel.

~Plan Ahead: Before you put him down, know where he's going to move. Keep him in or behind cover at all times, or as much as possible. Cover provides a cover save and can make your opponent waste valuable high strength shots at him, and if he gets assaulted, his initiative is rocketed up to 10, since he’s not actually using powerfists.

~Difficult Terrain=slower?? Not for a Carnifex. As a Tyranid, he gets 3 dice for the difficult terrain roll, and as a monstrous creature, he gets to re-roll all three dice if you get a poor roll. Considering that you have 3 dice, my doctrine is if all dice are 4 or less, it's a "poor roll" and I will automatically reroll it.

~Onward! To VICTORY: Always advance. Always move towards the objective or the enemy. Simply moving the Carnifex applies pressure to the enemy. The closer he gets, the bigger the Carnifex looks (both literally and figuratively) As much as we look at the Carnifex with awe and reverence, the enemy views it with fear and trepidation.

~Always Assault! With a few notable exceptions, you always want to assault. This extra move gets you further across the table and will potentially do damage to the enemy. If something is in range, even a skimmer, assault it. There’s always a chance that you could kill it. The exceptions are simple to keep in mind: if assaulting a unit will expose your Godfex to excessive danger in future rounds, don’t do it. Just be sure to look a round or two ahead to see what threats may be looming for the Godfex.

Following these movement rules should help you cross the table to your objective or to the enemy as quickly as possible.

Let us next consider the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Assault Godfex.

Being T 7, with a SV 2+ and W5, he would need to receive:

300 bolter shots to average out to 5.5 failed saves, killing him.

(as a side note, if he has a 3+ save, it only requires 150 bolter shots to kill him: removing the +Sv and the +W makes it much easier to put the not-so-godlyfex down)

MEQ Lascannons are dangerous: 9 shots will put down a Carnifex. but keeping him in cover will increase the required shots:

4+ cover means it doubles: 18 lascannon shots required.

5+ cover means 12 lascannon shots required.

You can figure the Godfex has about the same resilience against MEQ troops as against MEQ bolters. The weakness comes against power weapons, which works out roughly the same as Lascannons. This inescapably leads us to:

~Godfexes are TOUGH The Carnifex is much more able to take damage than it is able to dish it out. Strangely enough, many people seem to have missed this, not the least of which is our opponents. Admittedly, once the godfex gets into assault, he can do significant damage, and the opponent has fewer options to deal with the threat.

~Stay in Cover! the Carnifex is far more vulnerable in cover than out. You want to increase his survivability? Keep him there.

~Assault is Good, not Great: we've seen that he can kill 3-4 marines per round, but we also know that 8 Genestealers on the charge will cost 240 points, and likely kill 7 marines per turn. However, they don't have the resilience the Godfex does. Only 48 bolter shots to kill all 8, and significantly less to make it an ineffective unit.

~Avoid Super Assault Units! Massed or Buried Powerfists and Klaws, Khornate Berzerkers, Eldar Harlequins, Nurgle Plagueswords, Space Marine Force Weapons, Bloodletters, all these present grave danger to the Godfex. Avoid them, intercept them or sacrifice a unit of gaunts to protect him, because it's nearly guaranteed that the assault unit will kill him with little or no return.

In the final estimation, if you want to use a Godfex, go ahead. As with all other Tyranid units,

Know what you’re doing first.

1. On Deployment: Your choice revolves around whether you want to know your enemy's disposition as much as possible before putting him down or put it down first and scare your opponent and make him react to you. Both are valid options and must be determined by you in relation to your army and your opponent.

2. On Regeneration: Take it if you want, those 30 points are only a ~possibly~ useful thing. Just remember: the more damage the Godfex takes, the more likely he is to regenerate a wound. if you take 1 wound, you're rolling 1 die to gain 1 regenerated wound. if you have taken 4 wounds, you roll 4 dice, and each one can potentially give you a single regenerated wound. I leave it to you to decide whether regen is worth the 30 points.

3. Tactical Pressure: As I mentioned earlier, the Godfex puts a lot of pressure on the enemy. Just moving it forward implacably is enough to scare people. Heck, even a little dinky 114 point screamer-killer or devilfex is enough to make weaker units run for it. People are afraid of monstrous creatures. The Godfex, even more so. Opponents will sometimes go to stupid lengths to take one out, and that will potentially save the rest of your more dangerous broods to do the damage. Remember, All Fexi are tough, but not particularly great at dealing lots of damage.

Biovore or Warp Blast /Synapse Zoanthrope: Pros and Cons
There are 3 primary differences between the Zoanthrope and the Biovore. Both units qualify as heavy support, but due to the differences between them, their battlefield roles tend to be vastly different.

These differences can be broken down into 3 basic categories.

1: range
2: direct/indirect fire
3: strength/weapon stats

Biovores are the longest range unit in the Tyranid army (if you're counting absolute range, not effective range) at 48", one can deploy the Biovores up close to the front lines and pepper the enemy with mines from round 1. Depending on your deployment and the table in question you might even be able to reach units such as enemy artillery.

Being an indirect fire barrage weapon (some would say guess) the Biovore can hit those troublesome Whirlwinds, Defilers, Basilisks, etc. possibly taking them out early in the game and allowing the rest of your army to advance with less hindrance. It also bears mentioning that the Biovore spore mines can force your opponent to change direction or take the time to actually shoot the drifting mines, potentially pinning and slowing down your foe.

All of these tend to be useful, but not often game-turning abilities. The Biovore tends to have a more subtle effect on opposing armies, getting them to spread out a bit, which can have a surprising effect on assault, and also turn some shooting away from your main units.

The problems with the Biovore are really the crux of the issue around it.

1. You have to know what you're going up against beforehand. Otherwise, you either risk taking the wrong type of mine, or you spend more points than is reasonable for the Biovore. Because of this reason alone, Biovores rarely see tournament play.

2. Lower strength means that really the mines are best against troops, and can get chancy when trying them against most vehicles.

3. Scatter causes a lack of pin-point accuracy, of course and compared to other shooting weapons, this can have a rather detrimental effect when trying to kill high-priority targets. There are ways to mitigate this, and one is to actually shoot at things within LOS. In this case, you would only scatter 1d6". Because of this scatter, Biovores tend to be most useful in the beginning few turns of the game where models are often clumped together in large masses, but they become less useful as the game progresses, as attrition causes some models to be lost and opponents are afforded the opportunity to spread out across the table.

Zoanthropes (with warp blast) offer one of the few high-strength weapons the Tyranids can field and can also cause penetrating hits on vehicles. Of mediocre to poor range, you need to put them on the front line and advance as much as possible. Despite these two things, their better weapon stats give them an advantage over other Tyranid weapons by causing more devastating damage immediately. Finally, they are surprisingly tough: 2 wound synapse creatures with 2+/6+ save.

Zoanthropes provide a more immediate and directly observable result by resisting a surprising light weapons fire, causing more immediate damage, and providing that game-winning shot in mid- to late-game. Still there are some disadvantages:

1. Direct fire and poor range limits their target selection. In turns 2 and 3, you're almost invariably shooting troops, regardless of individual value. In turns 4 and 5, you may be able to switch to the heavier units, heavy weapon infantry, tanks and the like... assuming either the target or the Zoanthrope is still alive.

2. Psykers can be interfered with. Psychic Hoods, some Eldar or Chaos abilities, and anything that modifies a target's leadership stat can all interfere with the stronger warp blast, causing you to lose the shot this turn.

These issues aside, the Zoanthrope tends to be a more popular choice when entering a tournament setting, due to their more universal utility, as their reduced range tends to more closely match the rest of the Tyranid army’s weaponry, and the nearly ubiquitous synapse node means there are usually other units nearby to help support and protect the Zoanthrope.


Well that’s all you should need to “get started” with Tyranids, I hope this gives you an insight on not only how to start, but be a guide to take you all the way through your Tyranid collection.

Thanks for reading

Creator of:
Tyranids 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Necron 5th ed. W/L/D 1/0/0 Tau 5th ed. W/L/D 2/2/3
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 20:10   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

Brilliant read, I managed to sit through all of it because it was genuinely interesting.
I never heard of Godfex before, and I never realised you could give it so many upgrades!
Tau: W-44 L-7 T-7
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you can never go wrong with a little promethium.
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 20:56   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

I always liked your old primer. Was it the imminent arrival of the new codex that spurred you on to finish this now?
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 21:39   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

Originally Posted by LordZanuu
Brilliant read, I managed to sit through all of it because it was genuinely interesting.
I never heard of Godfex before, and I never realised you could give it so many upgrades!
I'm glad you liked it, sir. ;D

Originally Posted by Arschbombe
I always liked your old primer. Was it the imminent arrival of the new codex that spurred you on to finish this now?
More or less: I figured if I didn't update it now, there would be too much to do when the new codex arrived. As it is, I haven't played much 5th edition, I've been doing too much comic work
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Old 27 Oct 2009, 22:47   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

Very nice work Striogi. +1

Heh, I karma'd him as well but didn't annotate it since I was in a hurry. Deserves +2 anyway! ~Gada
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Old 28 Oct 2009, 03:14   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

That was a good read, thanks for taking the time to write it.

Couple of small points worth mentioning, in the Biovore write up at the end you still make reference to target priority, and in the Genestealer section, where you mention them tearing apart land raiders I think it would be advisable to add that they need to upgrade their strength to 5 to actually score a glancing hit.
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Old 28 Oct 2009, 05:21   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: A Tyranid Primer - revised for 5th edition

Nicely done.
"He's got a huge... talent."
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